We're planning to visit Canada this summer ... and these days, that means we need a passport. It's still hard for me to believe that's so, but I've made several business trips there since 9/11, so I know it is. So a couple of weeks ago, I did some research online to find out what we needed to do, and I made an appointment for this morning at the big post office in Logan, Utah to meet with an “acceptance agent”.
There was some preparatory work, of course. Debbie and I have both had passports before. Mine were almost entirely for business travel, which I did far too much of. It expired four years ago. Debbie had a passport for the one international trip we've ever made together, in the mid-'90s, to Costa Rica. That was a memorable trip, indeed. But ... her passport expired in 2004. It turns out there are two different processes for renewing one's passport: one for passports expired within the past five years (so, mine) and one for those expired longer ago (so, Debbie's). That meant two different forms, each six pages long, needed to be filled out. Both of us would need new photos, but the post office offers that as a service. It wasn't clear what documentation Debbie would need, so we brought driver's license, birth certificate, and marriage license. I didn't need anything beyond my expired passport.
So after having filled out those monster forms, and gathered all the supporting documents, this morning we headed to the post office. It was relatively painless, no long waits, no insurmountable problems. We did have one funny incident, which the post office acceptance agent (a nice local lady with a great sense of humor) had never seen happen before. She took Debbie's photo, electronically transferred it to a special “face printer”, and printed out a pair of photos for her. Then she took mine ... and the printer refused to print. “Huh!” said she, and she had me come back to try again. Once again, the printer refused – but this time, she got an error message: “Face not found”. That's what she had never seen before. My face broke her printer. :) On the third try, though, the printer finally agreed to print my photo. Sheesh!
The biggest surprise for me was the cost. Each of our passport renewals cost $110, and then there were almost $60 worth of post office expenses (photos and postage, mainly). By the time we walked out of there, our bank account was close to $300 lighter. That I did not expect!